Sunday, October 2, 2011


In all my experience with Europe, we have done quite well traveling by the seat of our pants, making reservations as we went - no more than a day or two ahead of time, and sometimes not  even looking for a place to stay until we got to our destination.  Well . . . that was then, this is now, and the week-end we chose to spend in Barcelona happened to fall on the twenty-fourth of September, the biggest holiday of the city, Les Festes de la Mercè 2011.  Oh, my goodness.  Completely oblivious to the throngs of people on their way to celebrate, we tried to find a room while still in Almeria.  All my usual websites had NOTHING.  I tried some creative approaches and finally found a few possibilities, but they were in the 500-999 euro range and higher.  In other words, not really possibilities. 

Our original plan had been to spend three or four days in Barcelona.  We had heard such wonderful things about the city; we were anxious to explore every nook and cranny.   Now, the objective was quite different.  We just needed a place to stay between arrival in Barcelona and departure AS SOON AS POSSIBLE!

At last, I found a hotel - advertised to be near the airport - for 125 euros a night.  Following that stroke of luck, I made reservations to fly out of Barcelona to Venice the following day.  Great!  We could arrive in Barcelona in the late afternoon by train; take the subway to the airport; take a cab to the hotel; fly to Venice the next day; explore Barcelona another day. 

The train trip to Barcelona was a revelation.  After seeing the vegetable basket of Spain, we were now speeding through yet another agricultural wonder.
First, were the miles and miles of olive trees . . .

Then miles and miles of grape vines . . .

And, last but not least, miles and miles of citrus.

Along the way, we met two great people:  Michael from Portland OR who specializes in writing about international music festivals and Maribel, a fabulous woman who splits her life between Mexico City and Barcelona. 

We arrived at the downtown train station in Barcelona on schedule and the subway ride to the airport was equally as straightforward. We got our boarding passes for the next day and put the extra luggage in storage for the night.  Then we went outside to find a cab to our hotel.  The taxi driver explained that the hotel was pretty much on the other side of the world.  What?  Surely there was some mistake.  No, he patiently explained.  No mistake.  What in the world made me think I could find a hotel room anywhere close to Barcelona for 125 euros on 24/09/2011???????? 

Back to the subway and back to the downtown train station.  There, I met my third Spanish angel - more on this subject later - and he helped me find the address, determine the route we needed to take and even called the hotel to alert them of our late arrival.  What a charmer.  By now, it was after 11:00 PM.  The last train would leave in five minutes.  We flew down the escalator, located our track and barrelled into the car.  By midnight, we had arrived at the subway stop closest to the hotel, and thanks to yet another Spanish angel, we were in a cab headed to the hotel.  Oops!  Wrong hotel.  Back in the cab. 

Needless to say, it was very, very late by the time we were all checked in.  The bar at the hotel was closed as well as the restaurant.  We had had nothing to eat since breakfast in Almeria and a very small tapas snack on the train.  Off we went to find food and drink.  We found one bar about three blocks away, but the kitchen was closed.  The waiter, yes another Spanish angel, took mercy on us and fixed us a plate of ham, cheese, bread, and olives.  We devoured every bite and it was delicious!

The next morning, we were subway experts.  We made our connection to the airport perfectly and without so much luggage, the trip was absolutely pain-free.  We even had time to enjoy our seat mate, a lovely gal from London, and the violin player.  I wish the trip to the airport would have been a bit longer, just for the music. 

On the other hand, I was glad to have escaped the city without having to sleep on the sidewalk.  We have to go back for two reasons:  One, it would be a shame to have gained all that knowledge of Barcelona and not be able to use it in a more leisurely manner.  Two, I want the chance to see the city in the sunshine.  As we walked out of the hotel to meet our taxi, the rain started and it was still raining when we boarded the plane.  I think our Barcelona adventure was meant for another day.  Until then, Hasta la vista!